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Letter to the Editor: Working to reverse the principle of non-inclusion

I'd like you to think about your life right now. How do you spend your weekends? What do you love to do? Is there anything in your life that seems insurmountable?

I'm a member of the low vision community. You've probably seen me with my red-tipped cane and thought, "Wow, that would suck," then moved along with your day.

For me and countless others, there are insurmountable challenges that most people wouldn't even think about. And that's the problem: accessibility issues aren't brought up in the day-to-day lives of most people because they simply don't think.

Miami University, while treating disabilities somewhat ambivalently, has a lot they can do to reverse the principle of non-inclusion. This is a socialization phenomenon taught and enforced by education and the educative system: schools isolate students with disabilities, whether consciously or by accident, by separating them from a traditional classroom, or by not making classroom materials accessible to students with disabilities. This isn't just harmful to disabled students--it teaches a dangerous doctrine to able-bodied students as well: that disabled students are second-class citizens. This leads to non-inclusion outside of schools, with employers, public officials, and people in places of power not considering the lives and needs of students with disabilities.

I'd like you to think about the most stereotypically Oxfordian experience you can. Chances are, you thought about heading uptown to grab some grub from Bagel and Deli with your friends, or else sharing a plate of waffle fries outside at Skipper's. Now, imagine that you're low-vision or blind. Can you read the menu?

My group of classmates wanted to make these experiences universal, but we had to start small. We decided to partner with these two businesses and the AccessMU here at the university to print braille menus for low vision or blind students at Miami who just want a normal night hanging uptown with their friends, looking for a sandwich, a drink, and a good time. This isn't just for them, though--students with family members visiting whose family members are low vision or blind can enjoy these quintessentially Oxfordian experiences with their students in a way they wouldn't without an accessible menu.

We reached out to these businesses, both of which were very excited by the proposal. In conjunction with the restaurants and AccessMU, we compiled menus and sent them to be printed in braille, and the menus are currently being implemented and will hopefully contribute to not only some happy memories formed by members of the blind/low vision community and their friends and family, but also to the reversal of the principle of non-inclusion. We hope other businesses uptown will follow suit and make changes to make their services and products universally accessible.

This isn't the end though. My classmates and I know there's a long way to go, and not just for low-vision and blind students. Accessibility should be treated as a human rights issue--it should be regarded as the right to live, not as a political issue. We can all do more to consider what students and citizens living with disabilities need to live the life they deserve.

Tell me: are you doing everything you can to level the playing field for students whose abilities are not less than yours, just different? As a person, are you furthering the principle of non-inclusion? Look within yourself. Think about what you can do to make the experiences you love here, at your second home, universal.

ricess@miamioh.edu

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